District makes changes after families camp out for registration



DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A Pine Lake city councilman is demanding to know what the DeKalb County school district is doing to make sure families with small children don’t have to camp out overnight just to get in line to register for school. 

Immigrant and refugee children have to go to DeKalb's International Welcome Center for evaluation before they're placed in schools.

Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh learned the district made changes since we saw the long line of families sleeping on the pavement outside DeKalb County school headquarters early Friday morning. 

"This isn't like ‘Black Friday’ when you're trying to get a cheap laptop. It's an education,” said Pine Lake councilman George Chidi. “You shouldn’t have to sit there like waiting for concert tickets at 2 in the morning with your kid.”

Chidi was reacting to images of children camped out on concrete.

“Someone could have seen this in the office and said ‘Ok, we plainly have a problem. Let's fix this problem right now,’" Chidi said.

Families Kavanaugh talked to on Friday said they faced long lines for days.

Because of the lengthy process, a spokesperson said it takes about two hours to register each child. The district says staff can only register 60 students a day.

Chidi wasted no time expressing his frustration blasting the DeKalb schools' process in a mass email saying "the central office doesn't know how to manage effectively."

"We were ready to receive the students. We had extra staff. We had the interpreters that were rehired,” said Sandra Nunez, who runs the International Welcome Center for the district.

Nunez said they have made adjustments for students who still couldn't get registered after showing up on Monday.

"The other families received orientation information in their language and they will be coming back with an appointment," said Nunez. She said right now they are booked through Thursday, but are still taking appointments for Friday.

Still, Chidi wants to know what will keep this from happening again and why changes weren’t made sooner.

"Somebody stand up and say this was my fault. I did this. I'm going to fix it by doing that," he said.

Monday, Kavanaugh also spoke to some immigrant and refugee groups.  Some of them will be meeting with school district this week. The district says this was a previously scheduled meeting.  

Several groups told Kavanuagh they want to try to come up with solutions to avoid this type of back log.

The head of the International Rescue Committee, J.D. McCrary, emailed the following statement:

“The International Rescue Committee and the other refugee serving organizations are working closely to register and enroll refugee students as quickly as possible for the current school year. Refugee students in DeKalb only make up 3% of the overall student enrollment and only 20% of the international students currently attempting to enroll. The refugee serving agencies and DeKalb County School District are scheduled to meet this week to determine what process is in the best interests of the students. We are confident that our existing strong partnership with DCSD and the staff at the International Welcome Center will allow the refugee enrollments to be resolved in a timely manner.”

On Monday, police were blocking access to the DeKalb County Schools headquarters so that families could no longer camp out overnight. The district said this was a safety precaution because the parking lot would be too busy at the start of school with buses rolling out.